3 minute read • published in partnership with Stäubli
Insight: Maintaining the benefits from your investments in robotics
With robots now an essential element in many manufacturing facilities, users are benefiting from the increases in productivity, quality and consistency which these systems deliver. The high levels of reliability and uptime associated with robot systems however can sometimes lead to complacency when it comes to planning preventative maintenance schedules. Simon Jenkins from Stäubli highlights the benefits which can be realised by adhering to preventative maintenance schedules for robot systems, which will in turn ensure long term performance and an ongoing return on the initial investment.
There is little doubt that as part of the justification process for the investment in the robot systems currently in production across our manufacturing landscape, increases in performance and productivity would have been a key element of the submission for capital. With the systems subsequently installed and running, the anticipated benefits were soon realised, and production would then continue at a pace with the minimum of human intervention, save for the provision of component parts etc.
The very fact that robots do operate for many thousands of hours at high efficiency levels can in certain instances foster the approach that “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. This however will at some point result in unexpected failure, unplanned maintenance and not only costs to replace components, but the much greater costs associated with loss of production.
These events can however be mitigated through the implementation of a planned and targeted preventative maintenance schedule. Although there are costs associated with this approach they can be budgeted for ahead of time and will overall be much less than the cost of restoring production in the event of a failure.
It is an accepted practice that when we purchase a car, many of us will ensure regular servicing at the recommended intervals to maintain reliability and to continue to achieve the optimum fuel efficiency. We will also replace wear parts, such as tyres, when needed not only to adhere to legal requirements but to maintain safety and performance. The value of regularly servicing our vehicles is seen not only in the fact that they will last longer, but in their residual value which will be greater based on their service history. Whilst we may not be considering residual value in terms of our robot systems, extending their useful life significantly, whilst maintaining safe operation and always attaining the highest performance levels, represents an ongoing return on the initial investment.
Simon Jenkins explains: “As one of the world’s leading robot suppliers we are able to measure the benefits from regular service and maintenance from analysis of the vast installed base which we have across multiple sectors. Whilst we have always been pro-active with our customers in relation to service and maintenance, we are now launching a comprehensive new range of service and maintenance packages, combined with 24/7 support. This holistic approach to service and maintenance will maximise uptime and productivity levels for our customers. These new offerings are being treated differently and will be available as part of our standard product line, with the capability of being tailored to suit individual customer needs.”
Another key factor in ensuring optimum performance from robot systems is that of training for operators, programmers and maintenance personnel alike. Users skilled in programming will be able to quickly make any changes needed to accommodate new part variants or even just minor adjustments to an existing robot programme. The same applies to those businesses which operate a structured in-house maintenance programme, detailed knowledge of the robot hardware and control system is a valuable asset during planned maintenance routines.
Throughout the pandemic, Stäubli has ensured the availability of training courses, initially in the form of live interactive on-line courses using robot simulation software, and increasingly moving back to on-site training at the company’s Telford site. Simon Jenkins comments: “Training is an essential element in upskilling, and we are seeing an increase in demand for training courses as part of this process within a number of companies across several market sectors.”
When compared to the initial investment made when purchasing robot systems, the value associated with an ongoing planned and structured servicing, maintenance and training programme far outweighs the relatively low costs involved.